Text by Neil Pagulayan Photos by Neil Pagulayan and Nissan
Serving as the culmination of its “Visit the Philippines, Drive to Discover with Nissan” program, Nissan Philippines, Inc. (NPI) couldn’t have found a better Philippine festival to cap off its tour than the Electric MassKara Festival in Bacolod.
Over the past year, the program invited journalists to visit the country’s most historic sights, from the artist haven of Angono, Rizal, to the historic and tumultuous history of Samar.
For this Drive to Discover, Nissan has chosen “The city of smiles,” Bacolod, in Negros Occidental. The sugar cane capital of the country boasts of the sweetest delicacies, equally thoughtful hospitality and some of the most well preserved colonial homes.
After taking an early flight out of Manila, the delegation arrived in Bacolod to the sight of brightly-coloured Nissan Jukes with which to tour around the province. The day began with a breakfast stop at the heritage bakery of El Ideal in the town of Silay, the first known settlement on the island of Negros.
The next stop was approximately about an hour out to Cadiz Port, where a boat would take us to our beach destination of Lakawon, The white sand beaches of Lakawon are located on a banana-shaped island, just off the coast of Cadiz. It’s known for having the biggest floating bar in Asia, the Tawhai Floating Bar.
As tempting as it was to stay, the itinerary called for another stop in the city, at Café 21, for a dinner hosted by Bacolod City Mayor, Evelio Leonardia. He gamely stayed for a quick chat with Ramesh Narasimhan, NPI President and Managing Director.
Bright and early the next day saw us behind the wheels of the Nissan Jukes again, this time to visit Balai Negrense, the ancestral house of 19th century sugar baron Victor F. Gaston and his family, now turned into a museum. The story of this residence illustrates what life and tradition was like for people in different stratas of society in colonial times . The house’s construction has American Colonial influences, and was called a “Bahay na Bato,” from its lower storey being made out of concrete and the upper level was made out of wood. High ceilings and large windows provide great ventilation which kept the house and its residents cool in the pre-air conditioning era.
The next destination was Rapha Valley, about an hour and a half drive out of Bacolod City, located in the municipality of Don Salvador Benedicto. Lunch was healthy fare prepared from organic produce, accompanied by a lecture about organic farming and healthy living from Rapha Valley’s owner, Dr. Albert Jo.
After a filling lunch and a long day on the road, we headed back to Bacolod City for the trip’s piece de resistance, the Electric MassKara festivities along Bacolod’s Lacson Avenue. The road was closed and as the evening fell, you could feel the city’s festive mood swelling and come to a climax as brightly lit and colorful floats with masked performers from different barangays paraded past the front of our dinner venue.
On our last day, our adventure wasn’t capped by a visit to The Ruins — a popular tourist and wedding destination, set against the ruins of another sugar baron’s home, which played a key role in World War II.
Having digested some rich history in our heads and equally rich delicacies in our stomachs, it was time to depart.
Hopping from one destination to the next was made easy with our Nissan Jukes. Bacolod’s smooth, open country roads, with lots of stretches lined with sugarcane, and winding mountain roads allowed us to put Nissan’s compact SUV offering through its paces. We took advantage of the Juke’s Sport mode which allowed us to fully enjoy our driving experience. Its versatility as a compact SUV made it perfect for our scoots around the city and populated areas, and adapted well to the open and winding roads. It was robust enough to keep us comfy on the rough stuff when it came up. And of course, its looks were guaranteed to turn heads.
This trip was made in conjunction with the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the marketing and promotions arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT). “Visit the Philippines, Drive to Discover with Nissan” aims to boost local tourism through the promotion of road travel to tourism destinations recommended by the TPB.
“We at Nissan are happy to end on a high note with a visit to the famed ‘City of Smiles’ that is Bacolod, and see all the attractions of the city while celebrating its notable festival,” said Ramesh Narasimhan, NPI President and Managing Director.
The Nissan Juke is available in two variants — the Juke 1.6L CVT variant priced at Php 980,000, and the Juke 1.6L CVT N-Sport, which offers a sportier, more dynamic look, priced at Php 1,039,000 — in all Nissan dealerships for test-driving and outright sale. For more details, visit nissan.ph.